Children’s choir returns from Hawaii, ready to share all they’ve learned

SVCC Returns From Hawaii, Ready To Share All They’ve Learned

By Kate Elizabeth Queram, Daily News-Record

When Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir member Nikita Burke first heard that the group would be traveling to Hawaii in July to participate in the 2009 Pacific Rim Children’s Chorus Festival, she knew instantly that she wanted to go. The 10-day trip included multiple cultural excursions (such as learning traditional Polynesian dances, hiking Oahu’s Diamond Head volcanic cone and visiting Pearl Harbor) as well as the opportunity to perform foreign-language songs with 11 other children’s choirs and Burke, 15, viewed it as a must-do.

"Obviously, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said.

SVCC choristers in Hawaii in 2009
Jaymie Inouye and fellow members of the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir sing during their trip to Hawaii in July. Members of the choir learned traditional dances, hiked Oahu’s Diamond Head volcanic cone and visited Pearl Harbor, in addition to performing foreign-language songs. (photo courtesy Daily News-Record)

Burke’s only potential roadblock was funding. Choir members are required to pay their own way, and the cost of the trip, including airfare and lodging, was around $2,800. Luckily, Burke was raised on a Dayton dairy farm and is used to hard work, so taking on odd jobs to earn the money wasn’t out of the ordinary.

"I get paid some for milking cows," she said. "I babysat a few times. I did housework, yard work, things like that. It took me like the entire last summer and this year to save up the money. And it was definitely worth it."

Rewarding experience, says White

It’s an opinion shared by Julia White, the choir’s founder and director, who said that the festival’s blend of musical and cultural immersion makes it a deeply rewarding experience for Valley children.

"It’s so substantive and so educational," she said. "There were kids from dairy farms from around here doing these Tahitian hip-swinging dances, and it was very stretching for some of these kids who had never been out of the country, never been on an airplane, seeing these dark-skinned Tahitian men doing these fierce war dances … or the little girls learning how to do the stone dances from different islands, it was very, very stretching."

SVCC choristers in Hawaii in 2009
Members of the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir performed during the 2009 Pacific Rim Children’s Chorus Festival in Hawaii in July. (photo courtesy Daily News-Record)

Learning the pre-selected festival music in time was also a push for the group, according to White. The repertoire included 14 songs in 11 languages, including Hawaiian, Samoan and Chinese, all of which the choir had to learn in 10 rehearsals.

"It was a real push. It was much more rigorous than our usual semester in terms of amounts of music and languages and parts," said White, adding that the choir members also held their own rehearsals in June. "They had extra practices. It was a huge stretch for all the kids and I think they would all say that it was hugely rewarding, too."

Phenomenal response to performances

If the response from the festival concerts’ audience is any indication, the hard work paid off. Held on the trip’s last two nights, the concerts give the participating choirs a chance to perform for each other. White’s group was given the last performance slot on the second night; a distinction she said was an honor.

"That was a vote that we were a good choir and they wanted to end all of that with our choir," she said.

And the audience response was phenomenal, she added. "From all the choirs there, we got huge applause and standing ovation, which no other choir did. Sometimes the kids in the Valley don’t realize what we have here, and when we go out and see us compared to other groups, they go, ‘Oh, I didn’t know.’ They look at the whole program differently."